Best Charcoal Pencils 2021: Reviews By an Expert Artist
Updated: December 28, 2020
Sketching is a meticulous process that requires sharp focus, creativity, and the perfect tools. Most of us who start with the generic graphite pencils struggle to replicate Michelangelo or Peter Paul Rubens's artistic techniques.
Why is that?
Well, the type of medium used matters a lot. Charcoal was the tool of choice for most artists back then, it is still widely used today.
You will be surprised to know the level of detail you can achieve using this medium. See the cave drawings that were done thousands of years ago!
No doubt, after a certain time of using them, you will get to open your imagination and unlock a range of possibilities!
Charcoal pencils help you bring out your artistic side by creating striking highlights, blending to produce beautiful tones, and by adding depth and dimension to your pieces.
So, when it's time to express your emotions on paper, turn to this remarkable medium. However, you need that perfect charcoal pencil which will make your sketch standout.
Artists have a soul that searches and composes beauty, and they cannot settle for mediocre. We understand that. Which is why, we have a selection of the best charcoal pencils for you to check out.
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What Is A Charcoal Pencil and What are The Benefits of Using It?
Charcoal pencil is a drawing or sketching medium that is made using compressed charcoal. Unlike graphite pencils, they produce deeper and richer blacks that provide depth to your pieces. They usually come in three types, soft, medium, and hard.
Soft charcoal will allow you to attain dark values, whereas the hard will give you the lightest tone just like their graphite counterparts. This medium is darker than the darkest graphite. This will let you achieve a broad range of dark values, ranging from the lightest to the deepest black.
Charcoal pencils are perfect for impressionist drawings, as it requires multiple tones of shading. You can also use various smear, smudge, and blending techniques to create gradations. This will add an incredible level of detail to your sketches.
The quality that you can achieve by using this medium is unrivaled. You can achieve solid, textured colors that are evenly toned. This makes your sketches appear life-like as you can easily contrast between different tones.
Using them gives you smooth blacks that adhere perfectly to the drawing surface. They can also be blended, allowing you to create sophisticated details that would otherwise be difficult to get using graphite pencils.
Charcoal pencils are made by encasing compressed charcoal in a wooden jacket. The inner core of the pencil is made using a combination of powdered charcoal and a binder. Depending on the brand, this binder is usually gum or wax. The ratio of the binder and charcoal powder that determines the hardness of the core.
The grade of a charcoal pencil is labeled in alphanumeric. This typically ranges from HB to 6B. The more binder in the core, the harder it. Likewise, a higher proportion of charcoal powder leads to a softer core. The level of hardness makes a huge difference in the sketch.
The benefit of using different grades is that you can alter between various tones. Pencils with a soft charcoal center will give you dark, almost pitch-black tones, whereas the harder core provides lighter blacks levels. This is essential when creating shades of various tones.
Unlike the stick, willow, and vine variants, charcoal pencils are easy to use. The wood barrel increases the grip, which makes handling them super simple. They are less messy compared to sticks, and won't smudge your art easily compared to other charcoal mediums.
A handy feature using pencils is that you can expose various lengths of charcoal by chipping the wood casing. This is perfect for shading large areas with quickly and with ease.
The inner charcoal core is protected by the wood casing. This makes them durable. You can also sharpen them to expose a specific charcoal level to ensure you don't waste much of the material. The other forms of charcoal, without an external casing, are usually prone to breaking.
Our Top 10 Best Charcoal Pencils 2021
1. AmazonBasics Sketch and Drawing Art Pencil Kit
If you are a beginner or someone who just recently took an interest in sketching, then this kit is perfect for you.
The 17-piece set comes with 6 graphite and 3 charcoal pencils, a sketch stick, 4 charcoal sticks, a dual sharpener, a kneaded eraser, and a white plastic eraser. All of the essential tools required for a motivated artist.
The included graphite pencil grades range from the solid 2H to the softer 2H. This provides the perfect variation between light and darker shades, allowing you to achieve a higher level of detail in your sketches.
Aside from the graphite, the kit also comes with soft, medium, and hard charcoal pencils. With this medium, you can get a wider range of tones in your sketches. The wood barrel design of these items doesn't create a mess, unlike charcoal sticks, giving you a neat and precise sketch. The charcoal sticks that come with the kit allows for deeper blacks and easy gradations.
Another handy tool is the sketch stick. This is used by artists to smear charcoal or graphite to create graduated highlights or shades. The shading created using this tool allows you to achieve a degree of realism, by adding depth to your art pieces.
Sketching is a meticulous process. You may easily make some unwanted errors that you would want to conceal. For this reason, the kit comes with a kneaded and white plastic eraser. Two imperative elements required for a clean and flawless sketch.
In case your graphite or charcoal sketching items go blunt after prolonged use, you can sharpen them by utilizing the included sharpener.
2. PRO ART 3062Pro Art Charcoal Pencil Set
Simple and just what you need.
Charcoal is one of the mediums of choice when it comes to sketching. By using the proper technique and the correct tool, you can create a stunning piece. With the PRO Art 3062 charcoal pencil set, you can achieve just that.
The four-piece set consists of 3 charcoal pencils of varying grades. From soft to hard, this set is ideal for any aspiring artists, aiming to attain perfection in their art piece. Also included is a white sketch pencil that adds an extra dimension to your drawings.
The hard pencil is lighter, more rigid, and is to produce lighter tones. Unlike the soft variant, these can hold its shape well. It can also be sharpened to produce intricate details, which adds depth to your drawings. Hard charcoal pencil is best used to create outlines and fine features such as the details in the eyes.
Medium charcoal pencils are great for drawing. They are also preferred by most artists for sketching purposes. In terms of dullness, the PRO ART holds its shape well. It provides the perfect shading, exactly what you may expect from medium grade pencils. This makes it the best charcoal pencil you can lay your hands on.
With soft pencils, you can attain deeper blacks. This will allow you to contrast against the greys and white colors. Just like other brands, PRO ART 3062s soft pencils are more brittle than the mediums and hard variants.
You can create highlights that stand out using the included white sketch pencil. It is an essential tool that is sometimes overlooked, especially when you are just starting. PRO ART's white sketch pencil can be used over graphite or charcoal to blend or lighten a specific area.
Quality-wise, they lean more towards the "beginner's set" level. Although the attractive pricing makes it an easy pick, quality is the paramount factor and for someone who is just getting started, The PRO ART 3062s provides just that.
3. Castle Art Supplies 26 Piece Drawing and Sketching Pencil Art Set
This enormous 26-piece set has all the tools you need for the perfect sketch. Ranking at second place in the “Drawing pencil” category, you may get a hint of the eminence of the product.
First off, what makes this set so well received by aspiring and experienced artists, is the premium quality of the tools. Secondly, the wide selection of items makes this the complete set. The combination of graphite and charcoal sketching tools of varying degrees will surely help you achieve an exemplary sketch.
The graphite pencils in the set have a varying degree of hardness. Ranging from hard 2H to the soft 8B, these pencils allow you to easily create expressive sketches with a great level of contrast. You can experiment with different tones and shades, increasing the depth of your artwork.
Just like graphite, charcoal pencils have varying levels of hardness. For deeper blacks, the soft pencil will be your tool for the job. If you want a lighter shade, then go for the medium. The hard variants are for those areas that need pinpoint precision.
Another medium is the 3 graphite and charcoal sticks that are primarily used when shading large areas. Depending on the pressure applied, the sticks will give you an even shading, which would otherwise be difficult to achieve with their wooden counterparts.
Of course, no art set is complete with erasers and sharpeners. For your convenience, this set comes with two for each graphite and charcoal sketching tools. You may use the kneaded and vinyl erasers to your advantage by using them to lighten darker shades.
They are also residue-free, so you don't have to worry about smudging your artwork.
The Castle Art sketch set is a complete solution to your drawing needs. It is also a perfect gift item for anyone who likes to sketch their thoughts on paper.
4. 29 Pieces Professional Sketching & Drawing Art Tool Kit
If you are looking for a complete set that will fulfill all your sketching needs, then Lightwish's 29 pieces professional sketching kit is exactly the product you are looking for.
One of the main aspects of this product that sets it apart from most other sketching and drawing kits, is the canvas rolling pouch. It has room for 39 accessories, of which 37 of them are pencil slots and the remaining two are larger items such as the included 4B and kneaded erasers.
The sets consist of 18 premium quality graphite pencils of varying grades. From the hardest HB to the soft and heavy 8B, it covers most of your sketching necessities. They have a non-toxic lead core that doesn't break easily. This makes them reliable, and easy to use.
Another crucial component of the set is the charcoal pencils. They come in soft, medium, and hard which allows you to create tones of varying intensities. Just like their graphite equivalents, they too are difficult to break and convenient to use.
To blend graphite or charcoal tones, you can use double-tipped blended sticks. The rice paper made sticks comes in three different sizes. This allows you to smear varying proportions of charcoal or graphite layers, useful for creating sophisticated gradations.
Instead of sharpeners, the kit comes with a craft knife. Unlike sharpeners, using a craft knife you can expose a lot of the inner core. A handful of artists uses an exposed core to create larger, more expressive drawings and also for shading purposes.
Some notable items are not included in the set, however. Unlike other large kits, it doesn't come with graphite and charcoal sticks, something you might have to consider when purchasing a complete sketching set.
5. General Pencil 5582BP Charcoal White
White charcoal pencil is an essential tool that adds dimension to your sketches. If you want to create white highlights that contrast against the black and grey background, then General Pencil's white charcoal is the ideal product for that.
The product contains two pieces of white charcoal pencils and a sharpener. If you already have a set of black charcoal pencils and sticks, then this product is a great addition that can make a substantial difference in your art pieces.
Most artists use this item to enhance the sketch. They are primarily used in the drawings that have been created using black charcoal on white paper. Normally, the white charcoal is applied to the black and on clear regions to establish white and grey highlights.
The product is also versatile. In its dry state, you can use it just like you would use any other sketching tool. By wetting the tip of the pencil, you can achieve a bright white opaque liquid that becomes permanent when dry. This makes it usable in graphite, charcoal, pastel, or even watercolor.
To get grey values, simply layer it over the black area of the sketch. Depending on the pressure applied, you can get lighter tones of black to contrast between different shades. You may also use it as an erasable, to cover black charcoal without much effort.
You can create a range of effects using this tool. For example, create a mist effect by gently smearing the white charcoal that is layered on top of the black drawings. That was just one example, the level of detail you can achieve with this is astounding!
6. Wanshui 24 Sketch Charcoal Pencils
Professional grade sketching tools at an affordable price.
If you are looking for good quality sketching items at an affordable price tag, then Wanshui has the perfect solution for you. The product consists of 24 sketch pencils that can rival other popular brands.
Wanshui graphite pencils come in varying grades. They range from the light H to the darker 11B grade, perfect for any depth of black or grey shading. The graphite pencils provide great consistency when shading, ideal when creating life-like sketches.
The provided charcoal mediums come in hard, medium, and soft levels. You can easily layer different levels on each other to create your desired tones. The inner core of these mediums is durable as they resist cracking when high pressure is applied.
In terms of quality, Wanshui doesn’t disappoint. The charcoal blends easily giving you the different shades of blacks. Furthermore, the color is consistent with every swipe. It adds texture to your drawings, enhancing the level of detail that can be achieved.
An interesting aspect of the Wanshui pencils is that the casing of H, B, and charcoal are of different colors. The H grade mediums are light blue, whereas the B graded mediums are a shade darker. The charcoals, on the other hand, are blue.
The color code makes each grade of pencils easy to spot and use instantly. They are also non-toxic, making them environmentally friendly and safe to use.
7. U.S. Art Supply 20 Piece Professional Hi-Quality Artist Sketch Set
What makes US art supply so great is that they focus solely on the quality of their products. While sketching requires incredible attention to detail, it also has to be coupled using premium quality tools. The 20-piece set by US Art Supply provides just that.
The set comes with 8 hexagonal shaped graphite pencils, each having unique levels of hardness. The one that has the hardest core is graded 3H, whereas the softest is 5B. Although the set doesn’t feature the biggest selection of items, they are the most widely used graphite grades.
US art supply set also has three hexagonal charcoal pencils of varying degrees. The soft, medium and hard variants provide a smooth and textured color laydown. They can be used to easily blend out, to gray darker tones or shade a particular area.
Another charcoal element is the soft and medium sticks. In general, they are messier than pencils. However, they can cover a large region, retaining tonal detail. The sticks have a great hold and are just right for expressive drawings.
To define highlights in your sketches, make use of the white pastel. It can also be used to create a high contrast, or use over charcoal and blend it to create a color. In most cases, the white pastel is used sparingly as black graphite and charcoal are usually the only components required to achieve optimal results.
The set also includes two different-sized blending stumps with dual-sided tips. It is an essential tool that helps in spreading the medium evenly. They can be used to shade or even smudge different areas of your drawing.
The supplied kneaded eraser can conveniently lift the charcoal if needed, whereas the white eraser is perfect for any grade of graphite. For precise markings, having a sharp drawing tool is necessary. The provided graphite and charcoal sharpeners ensure that they always stay sharpened.
8. Kasimir Drawing Pencils 14pcs
The complete charcoal set at an affordable price.
The product features a 14-piece, all graphite set of varying grades. It spans from the hardest 6H to the softer 12B. Using these, you can effortlessly produce linear gray-black strokes on textured or smooth paper.
The lead core gets thicker with softer grades. This gives you broad coverage that is perfect for loose sketches. Kasimir graphite pencils are also incredibly consistent with tones. A single stroke of the item will give you the desired shade.
With this medium, the quality of subtle and bold marks that can be created easily comes in par with other famous brands. Kasimir's 14 piece set is sufficient for any type of sketch or drawing. The B graded cores help you achieve deep black colors that smear remarkably well.
The grades are labeled in white on the side of the pencil. The clear and consistent labeling makes them easy to spot, and interchange quickly.
Unlike other large sets, this product lacks some essential drawing tools. The lack of charcoal sketching items, Blending sticks, and erasers may not appeal to some. However, if you want additional graphite pencils, or planning to replace your older shortened ones, then this will be a worthy option.
The Hexagonal wood barrel provides a comfortable grip that will aid you during expressive drawings. The lead or the inner core is perfectly positioned in the center, which prevents breakage when sharpening.
Although graphite pencils are mainly used for papers, these can also be used on canvases. This makes it the best charcoal pencil for any aspiring artist in dire need of versatile uses.
9. Colore Premium Art Pencils Pack – 50 Assorted Pencil Set
Color your dreams using the Colore’s premium art pencils.
The set features 10 graphite pencils of different grades ranging from 4H to 6B. It also consists of 10 charcoal sketching items, covering all the three levels of hardness. One of the main highlights is the 10 piece set of each colored, watercolor, and metallic pencils.
Take your sketches a step further by illustrating them with vivid colors. The three types of colored items create smooth shades, with minimal effort. The stunning colors with their pointed tips provide crisp lines that transform your art entirely.
The colored pencil consists of vibrant pigments that give beautiful blending. You can easily combine two or more colors, and produce a distinctive blend, that matches your creativity. It is also a great shading, layering, and highlighting tool that enhances the level of detail in your drawings.
Metallic colored pencils have a strong color application. They add shimmer in your art pieces giving the colored areas a metallic feel. The watercolor variants can be used with a bit of water to blend them, it will also make the edges appear soft.
Charcoal sketching items included in the set provides a smooth and even shade. It blends with ease creating unique tones. Their velvety texture enhances the level of detail in your drawings. The graphite can produce precise highlights and smooth gradations.
They come pre-sharpened and are ready to use right away. The thick core makes them prone to breakage allowing you to sharpen them with ease.
The items are organized neatly on a plastic tray. The labeled grades make them easy to spot and use. The box comes with separate spaces for each set of items. This makes it easy to store and use straight out of the box.
10. Royal & Langnickel RSET-ART2503 Small Tin Charcoal Drawing Art Set
Express your emotions on paper using Royal & Langnickel charcoal set.
This particular set will give you complete charcoal tools, essential for charcoal-based sketches. Except for powdered charcoal, the set contains one of each soft, medium, and hard charcoal pencils. It also comes with a woodless graphite variant, 4 varying degrees of charcoal sticks, and 4 vine charcoal.
The tools come in a compact tin box that houses the items in separate sections. This allows you to carry all the items conveniently while keeping them organized wherever you go.
Unlike most other charcoal sets, this comes with another form of charcoal medium. This medium is commonly known as vine charcoal. It is an essential tool that gives you results unique to what you might achieve using sticks or other charcoal mediums.
Vine charcoal sticks are made using grapevines that are burnt to a specific degree of hardness. They do not contain any binder which makes them soft and prone to breaking. Due to their softness, they can easily be erased. These sticks are great for producing soft, powdery lines. It is less suitable to create fine, crisper lines.
The woodless graphite is another unique item in the set. They are entirely made from graphite. With no wood casing getting in the way, you have a wider graphite stick. This gives you a broad coverage, allowing you to shade a wide area with ease.
The charcoal sticks provide deeps blacks and great texture. It holds its shape relatively well compared to other brands. They also smooth and can easily blend to create grey tones. You can also use it for highlighting and shading large areas.
This is a unique set that comes with four different forms of sketching tools. Make use of this versatile set to create detailed and superlative sketches.
Charcoal Pencil Buying Guide For Beginner
Quality is essential when purchasing the best charcoal pencil. The quality differs from brand to brand. An ideal charcoal sketching tool should deliver consistent even tones and easy to use. They have to be reliable and resistant to breakage.
Due to the poor manufacturing of processed graphite, some pencils may have uncertain tonal range. This can lead to a poor and inaccurate sketch. A reputed brand will use high-grade materials on their pencil that will help you produce flawless results.
Charcoal pencils come in rounded and hexagonal exteriors. The latter usually provides a better grip, which makes handling them much easier. However, this comes mostly down to personal preference. For some artists, it may not matter at all.
Another aspect of the exterior is the labeling. A clear label makes it easy to spot the grades of the pencil. Whether you are using soft, medium, or hard, a glance at the label should be sufficient to know which is which.
Buying a set
Most drawing and sketching sets come with a range of graphite and charcoal pencils. Some also have other essential utilities such as blending sticks, sharpeners, and erasers. If you are a beginner who is just getting started, it is preferred not to miss these extra tools.
A set provides a complete solution to your drawing needs. With an array of drawing items, you can achieve more detailed sketches that would otherwise not be easy to get with pencils of the same grade.
Top 10 Charcoal Pencil Brands On The Market
Charcoal pencils by AmazonBasics
As the name suggests, AmazonBasics was launched by Amazon in 2009. They first started their initiative by launching small everyday brands at a relatively low price. All of their products, including the charcoal pencil set has its branding on them. They quickly rose to popularity in a short period.
In terms of quality, the pencils are in the same category as other famous brands. With an affordable price tag, Amazon provides a complete sketching solution for aspiring and experienced artists alike.
Pro Art is an online supplier that sells various sketching and drawing tools. They supply items such as erasers, art boxes, drafting tapes, oil pastels, and more. Most of their sketching products come in different sized sets. In terms of quality, they are well received by customers. The reliability of their product makes them a trustworthy brand.
Castle Art Supplies
Castle Art Supplies is a well-known brand that focuses on only one thing that is quality. They offer various drawing items that come in large sets. From a large collection of oil, watercolor, paint, and sketching sets, Castle Art Supplies got everything covered.
They don't cut corners when it comes to quality. Castle Art Supplies ensures every item that they manufacture meets their standards.
Lightwish is on its way to becoming one of the bestselling art material stores. Provide quality art products suitable for beginners and professional artists. The affordable price tag is also the company's highlighting factor. Their large sets are cheaper than most of its competition. They have a wide selection of useful tools that helps you get quality drawings.
General Pencil is a legendary brand that was established in 1889, in the US. The company resides in Jersey City, New Jersey. They emphasize heavily on quality and tradition. The goal of this family-owned company is to create quality products that are suited for artists of all levels.
General pencil still uses their traditional manufacturing methods, making sure their products are consistent, just like they were 130 years ago.
Wanshui is a brand that primarily sells colored pencil products. Their graphite and charcoal drawing tools deliver in terms of quality and price. Most customers like to use them for their consistent performance on paper and canvases. That being said, Wanshui products are is great for anyone who loves drawing, coloring or painting.
US Art Supply
US Art supply is one of the biggest art tool suppliers in the US. They sell products from major brands such as DeVilbiss, Iwata, Badger, Master, and more. They sell their airbrush and compressor at a discounted price. They also have a range of sketch products such as sketchbooks, canvases, Easels, etc.
Kasimir offers high quality sketching items at a low cost. They currently sell charcoal, graphite, and colored pencils. They provide sets containing different grade pencils, they also offer each grade in separate packs. It is a decent alternative to other famous brands, as they provide a great drawing experience.
Colore is a US-based online superstore that was founded in October 2014. They are one of the leading suppliers of art instruments. Colore drawing tools are well known for their quality and reliability. Their products range from color pencils, watercolors, acrylic paints, and more. Most of their products come in large sets, at a relatively cheap price.
Royal & Langnickel
Inspired by the art of creation, Royal & Langnickel products focus on the smallest details. Founded in the early 1950s, they have consistently produced high-quality art supplies. Their products have a remarkable quality that can rival other famous brands. Royal & Langnickel stand by their products and ensures that you get the most satisfactory drawing experience.
Frequently Asked Questions About Charcoal Pencil
1. What Is The Difference Between A Charcoal Stick and Pencil?
Charcoal pencil, also known as pressed charcoal comes in a pencil form. They can be sharpened to a fine point that can be used for precise and detailed drawings. Charcoal stick or compressed stick is basically a powdered charcoal that is mixed with a binder. They come in square and round shapes and are often messier to handle.
2. What Is The Use Of a Blending Stick?
Blending sticks or blending stumps are rolled up soft paper that has two pointed ends on either side of the stick. They are used to blend or smear charcoal or graphite to create tones. They can spread the medium evenly, making them an effective shading tool. Blending sticks can also be used to create interesting patterns.
3. Are Charcoal Pencils Good For Beginners?
Charcoal pencil is an excellent medium for beginners. They create deep blacks that give a substantial level of depth in your art piece. It can also be used to shade and blend to produce different tones. It has a wonderful texture and can be used on paper as well as canvases.
4. How Are Charcoal Pencils Made?
First, compressed charcoal is made. This is done by combining powdered charcoal and binder, which is usually wax or gum. The ratio between powdered charcoal and binder will determine the hardness or grade of the core. They are then turned into pencils by placing the core inside a wooden jacket, which is typically made from cedar.
5. Why Do Some Artists Use Craft Knife Instead Of Sharpeners To Sharpen Charcoal Pencils?
You might expect a pencil, be it charcoal or graphite, always be sharpened using a sharpener. However, that is not always the case. Draft blades are used to expose more the inner core.
Exposed lead will give you a greater range of motion. It will allow you to shade a large area with ease. You can use it to produce thin lines and attain even tones of shade, making them versatile.
The use of charcoal for sketching purposes came into limelight when they were used by famous Renaissance artists during the 15th century.
Nowadays, use an improved version of the same material that is engineered to have better quality and texture. They are also designed to be more convenient and deliver standout results.
The best charcoal pencils in this article tick all the boxes when it comes to quality, reliability, and pricing. They can easily rival the top tier brands that are available on the market and help achieve the same level of perfection.
Whether you are a beginner, or a professional artist, the product on this list is suitable for anyone with an artistic vision. We hope this comprehensive article helps you to pick the ideal product that suits your sketching needs.